THE CRIPPLE 1091
' From where has that story come in the book ? * said Ole. ' It looks as if it concerned us. It is something to think about ! '
Next day they went to work again ; they were roasted by the sun, and soaked to the skin with rain ; in them were fretful thoughts, and they ruminated on them.
It was still quite light at home after they had eaten their milk porridge.
1 Read the story of the wood-cutter to us again,' said Ole.
' There are so many nice ones in the book,' said Hans, 1 so many, you don't know.'
1 Yes, but I don't care about them,' said Ole, ' I want to hear the one I know.'
And he and his wife listened to it again.
More than one evening they returned to the story.
* It cannot quite make everything clear to me,' said Ole. * It is with people as with sweet milk, which sours ; some become fine cheese, and others the thin, watery whey ; some people have luck in everything, sit at the high-table every day, and know neither sorrow nor want/
Cripple Hans heard that. He was weak in the legs, but clever in the head. He read to them from his story-book, read about ' The man without sorrow or want'. Where was he to be found, for found he must be !
The king lay sick and could not be cured, except by being dressed in the shirt which had been worn on the body of a man who could truthfully say that he had never known sorrow or want.
Messages were sent to all the countries in the world, to all castles and estates, to all prosperous and happy men, but when it was properly investigated, every one of them had experienced sorrow and want.
1 That I have not ! ' said the swineherd who sat in the ditch and laughed and sang, ' I am the happiest man ! '
1 Then give us your shirt,' said the king's messengers. 1 You shall be paid for it with the half of the kingdom/
But he had no shirt, and yet he called himself the happiest man.
' That was a fine fellow,' shouted Ole, and he and his wife laughed as they had not laughed for a year and a day. Then the schoolmaster came past.